As Britain’s financial crisis deepens, and leadership fails, we are urgently reminded of the links between finance and leadership. Our five thousand year record of human history shows that these two are deeply entwined.
However, I challenge you to open any university corporate finance book today and find a chapter on ethical leadership. India has one of the world's oldest traditions of socially and environmentally responsible business. This is before the western fraud of CSR. The climax is at Diwali when business leaders come together to pray for prosperity for themselves and inspiration to serve society.
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They open new books of account with a devotion to serve the community to the best of their ability. Nowhere else in the world have I seen such a corporate ritual where responsibility to society is enshrined in the conscience.
This ritual public meditation happens all over the world wherever the diaspora live and it has various names – Chopda Pujan, Laxmi Puja or Dhanteras Puja. Simple ingredients from nature are used in the symbolic worship and I will be attending the Veerayatan Chopda Pujan in London where even children will participate. In the process the whole family learn about the nature and limits of money and put money in its place as servant, never a master. It is detachment and non-possessiveness rolled into one.
The world of finance has long celebrated greed and selfishness - there is no such thing as community or society, only individuals. Financial markets and institutions have exacerbated this culture by institutionalising individualism and invented new rituals of worship called stock options and bonuses. Neoliberalism has directly attacked Indian Dharmic traditions yet they still prevail. It is my dream that the worlds’ oldest professional body of Chartered Accountants, the ICAEW in London annually hosts a Chopda Pujan and this is live cast to the whole world.
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A sustainable planet requires humanity to put money in its place, and take full account of its damage to society and nature. Future generations require us to leave a light footprint so please think of your children and grandchildren this Diwali. Let’s begin with the Chopda Pujan.